Have Pen, Will Travail

Bartolomeo Passarotti, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for all the well wishes on this whole mental health thing. As to these posts …

Part of me (a big part) is like, “What’s the point? Who the hell wants to hear you whine? What a waste of everyone’s time.”

Another part says, “Wow. A whole lot of friends & acquaintances have gone through this too. It’s encouraging to know you’re far from alone. Maybe it’s encouraging to some of them as well.”

And then there’s the part that says, “Meh. You’re 67 years old & retired. Post whatever the hell you want. It’s not like you’re going to lose a job or something.”

So here I am. A bundle of trepidation, dejection, arrogance, and joy. Make of it what you will. Lord willin’ & the creek don’t rise, I’ll be here tomorrow, wrestling the same questions in this sort of public journal.

I can see my hearse from here!

Over the past several years, I’ve had a few friends, acquaintances, and artists I’ve admired commit suicide. And my immediate thought, like yours probably, has been, “Oh, god, dude. Why didn’t you call? I would have dropped everything to come be with you.”

Some languages have two distinct words for “to know”: one for “I’m aware” and the other for “I’ve been there.”

I didn’t really grasp the misery of asthma until spending a week with an upper respiratory inflammation that had me gasping for air. Didn’t grasp the misery of “fibro fog” until the recurring fog of my own intermittent left cerebral “static.”

Didn’t grasp the depths of depression that can make the simple act of phoning an act of hope, when there is none.

The gallows humor of my title says that I’m not there. Happily, I live with a couple of people who didn’t have to be phoned.

I wonder if things might have been different for those lost friends, if someone had phoned them, instead.

Playing the Oddball Options

For the past 20+ years, I’ve praised my friend Chuck Kallenbach for his part in Decipher’s Lord of the Rings TCG’s “noise” rule and 50/50 light/dark deck build. Someone brought the game up today, and I remembered what a pleasure it was play. To see in what ways different people addressed those in deck builds. I remember in particular a kick-ass band of dwarves deck a friend put together.

What I probably haven’t said is that I like to build decks that abuse the spirit of any TCG, mainly for the challenge of making an off-kilter deck work, partly just as recalcitrance, somewhat for surprise at the table.

In Thunder Castle’s Highlander, the build was “Casper, the Asthmatic Tax Accountant,” using every non-combat card I could to avoid an actual sword fight. (Thunder Castle’s members-only cards thwarted pretty much every deck that didn’t include them, making convention tournaments pointless, but this one was fun in casual play.)

In Chaosium’s Mythos it was “The Pass/Fail Education,” playing “Pass and End the Round” cards early each turn, to cycle through & find what I needed while leaving other players flat-footed. (Happily, Chaosium later printed a card to prevent that card’s abuse.) But my favorite build to play in that was “The Sorcerer John Henry,” based on the “Exploited Coal Miner” character. It used “Carter’s Clock” Item and “Create Time Warp” spell to return to the “Castle of the Great Ones on Kadath” during the battle phase each turn, so as to dump spell after spell on the table without Sanity loss. All because a friend remarked that it was nigh impossible to use magic to any effect in the game. This TSJH deck was a somewhat slow one get up and running, and it frequently lost to other decks for that reason, but when it had time to get the gears in place, it dominated the game.


In Vampire: The Eternal Struggle it was a friend’s deck I was in awe of, something he called “Little Princes,” built around a plethora of 1-point Caitiff cards, a buttload of political cards they got into play before anyone else had enough votes to stop them, and a hand grenade or two for when they got caught in a dark alley by an older vampire, to sacrifice their own lives so as to put the other into torpor.

In the Lord of the Rings TCG Chuck helped design, I built a deck I called “Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em,” eschewing other fellowship members, to run just Aragorn and Frodo as party hoppers dashing from elven haven to haven, drinking up the wine and smoking up the pipeweed, then ducking out when the duo’s pursuers arrived. For flavor, the deck also included some smoking Gimli cards and Gandalf cards (they certainly weren’t efficient for achieving victory conditions). The dark half of the deck was all Uruk Hai, again inefficient, just so I could call that part “old Red Eye.”

Since those days in the late 90’s early 00’s, with TSR’s demise and life in general dispersing colleagues and friends across the US, I’ve not played much face-to-face with trading card games, so there’s not been the impetus to deep dive into oddball options in newer ones. But for nostalgia’s sake, I’m not really interested in doing so.

Nowadays I’m more apt to play a solo RPG or board game, not necessarily by necessity, but because the solo field is fascinating. Fortunately, tonight I’ve come upon some solo player’s rules for playing Mythos this way, and it’s time to give it a try. I hope to find something similar for V:TES, because absent those old friends, I do amuse myself.

Somewhere between omnishambles and bangarang

Photo by MARIOLA GROBELSKA on Unsplash

There’s an old sci-fi story about a guy who invents a time machine and finds himself lost in a chaos of disconnected events. That eternity is a kaleidoscope of random conjunctions, and what we perceive as each new millisecond is merely when the universe flickers into a pattern that resembles something it was before.

Which is to say, if I’ve promised you something, however small, and haven’t yet delivered, please feel free remind me. (I owe you a fanged smiley doubledice, David Annandale.)